Real cross country the way to goSep 10, 2017 By Scott Akanewich, Sports Editor
There was a cross country race Thursday at Central Wyoming College's Sinks Canyon Center.
What's the big deal, you might ask?
Well, the big deal is there wasn't a single fairway, bunker or putting green in sight as the Wolverines of Riverton faced the Lander Valley Tigers in a dual showdown, and the only water hazards were the streams which worked their way around and through the scenic 2.5-mile course, as well as a stretch along the banks of the Popo Agie River, with the soothing sound of running water providing the athletes with perhaps a bit of a respite from the agony of off-road endurance running.
Or, maybe not, as there certainly wasn't time to stop - or even slow down to enjoy the view as the Wolverines and Tigers worked their way around the rugged circuit during the boys and girls varsity races.
A pair of green-clad freshmen stole the show on the day, as Lander's Jessica White and Kaleb Simonsen won the girls and boys races, respectively.
But, the real star of the day was the course itself -- the brainchild of Central Wyoming College head cross country coach Al Lara, who crafted the entire loop by himself, with nothing more than a weed-whacker and a whole lot of hard work.
Which begs the question, why on Earth -- especially in a place like Wyoming, where there's certainly no shortage of wide-open wilderness -- is every cross country event not run on natural courses, as opposed to ones designed for drivers and putters?
For Lara, it's his version of "Field of Dreams."
He built it and they came, all right.
No reason why a regional or even state cross country meet should not be held on the beautiful, red-rock-ringed course in the shadow of the Shoshone National Forest.
Even the runners loved it despite its toughness, for it was something new and wonderful to experience, for athletes, coaches and spectators alike.
"The Course Al Built" will host its next event as the Rustlers welcome Gillette College in a National Junior College Athletics Association race on Oct. 14.
It's certainly the essence of what the sport of cross country is all about and an absolute gem right in our own backyard.
Let's hear it for Brandon Nimmo.
The Wyoming native is currently the New York Mets' leading hitter as the Cheyenne Post 6 graduate has firmly established himself as a big-league player this season after being a first-round draft pick four years ago.
In fact, in a season of nothing but doom and gloom in Flushing, Nimmo has been the lone shining light in a sea of baseball darkness and despair for Mets fans (which some of us are).
The best part of it is the youthful enthusiasm Nimmo brings to the field, with a seemingly permanent smile on his face as he achieves his dreams on the biggest baseball stage there is -- The Big Apple.
Nimmo's brightest moment was during a recent win against Cincinnati in which he collected three hits, including a pair of home runs and a double, with one of his long balls traveling 441 feet into the Queens night.
Not bad for a kid from The Cowboy State who's living proof regardless of where you're from, you can certainly still make the big time and bright lights.
It's a long way from Cheyenne to New York -- literally and figuratively -- but Nimmo has made a successful journey.
Finally, we get a performance worthy of a star in this, the second week of the season.
Tyler Scott, Wyoming Indian, football
On Tuesday in Ethete, the Chiefs hosted the Lander freshmen in a game Wyoming Indian would ultimately lose by a score of 48-6.
However, what's notable is how the Chiefs got their six points.
Scott, a big, burly lineman, scooped up an attempted Tigers onside kick in the first quarter and rumbled 50 yards for a touchdown.
It's not often the big boys in the trenches get to cover themselves in ball-carrying, point-scoring glory, but Scott certainly did on this day.
No. 2 Jessica White, Kaleb Simonsen, Lander, cross country
As mentioned above, both Tigers freshmen cross country runners won their respective races during a dual with Riverton at the CWC Sinks Canyon Center on Thursday.
Even more remarkable in White's case is this season is her maiden voyage in the sport after only running track in middle school.
Both Tigers acquitted themselves quite well on the rugged, unforgiving terrain the race was held on and they're both only getting started with their high-school careers.
As I've mentioned before in the is space, certain accomplishments will grant one automatic No. 1-star status.
Like making the cut for "SportsCenter's Top 10 Plays," which is what the Tigers wideout did in Lander's game against Glenrock on Friday.
Jay ran under a high, arching pass from quarterback Max Mazurie and made a stunning, spectacular, over-the-shoulder catch, as it appeared the ball momentarily sat right on his shoulder before blindly reaching up and palming it -- all while falling to the ground with a defender all over him.
In fact, the No. 9 status it gained in the ESPN nightly national countdown didn't do it justice.
Which is why Jay has been awarded No. 1 as far as we're concerned.
Very cool, indeed.